May 19, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Sources: McConnell opposed to current Jan. 6 commission

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is seen sitting in a Capitol subway car.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell heads to a Senate Republican Policy luncheon Tuesday. Photo: Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) told his fellow Republicans during a closed-door caucus lunch Tuesday he can't support a Jan. 6 commission in its current form, two sources familiar with his remarks tell Axios.

Why it matters: Senate Republicans are bracing for a House vote Wednesday. Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) opposes the commission but several Republicans are expected to buck leadership — making it more difficult for Senate Republicans to dismiss it.

What we're hearing: McConnell made comments to his colleagues along the lines of, "There’s 41 of us who could change this, and I think we should,” according to one of the sources. A second source confirmed the nature of the comments.

  • When McConnell finished, Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) — who's retiring in 2023 — also stood up and questioned aspects of the deal.
  • The senators did not indicate the deal is DOA in the Senate, the sources said, but made clear they would want to see substantive changes.
  • Such changes being discussed more broadly among some Republicans include ensuring the panel is truly bipartisan.
  • Rep. John Katko (R-N.Y.), who struck the deal with Democrats in the House, voted to impeach Trump — raising concerns among his fellow Republicans.

McConnell spoke publicly following the lunch and said he is "pushing the pause button" on the legislation, adding the GOP conference is “undecided."

  • He also noted the Justice Department and other congressional oversight committees are investigating the insurrection.
  • McConnell questioned whether a new commission would interfere with that work.

Between the lines: Most Republican members are wary of the commission and want to reframe the narrative away from the insurrection.

  • A prominent concern is that it could be weaponized to subpoena members.
  • There's also concerns it might alienate members of the GOP base, as well as former President Trump — who was impeached by the House for inciting the riot.
  • Alternatively, they recognize that if an investigation is going to take place, it's better to have a hand in investigating it than to allow Democrats to be fully in control.
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